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Are liabilities always a bad thing?

Liabilities are obligations and are usually defined as a claim on assets. However, liabilities and stockholders' equity are also the sources of assets. Generally, liabilities are considered to have a lower cost than stockholders' equity. On the other hand, too many liabilities result in additional risk.

Some liabilities have low interest rates and some have no interest associated with them. For example, some of a company's accounts payable may allow payment in 30 days. With those payables it is better to have the liability and to keep your cash in the bank until they become due.

In our personal lives, our first house was probably purchased with a down payment and mortgage loan. That mortgage loan was a big liability, but it allowed us to upgrade our living space. I viewed my mortgage loan liability as a good thing because it allowed me to own a nice home in a beautiful neighborhood.

So some liabilities are good—especially the ones that have a very low interest rate. Too many liabilities could cause financial hardships.